LA-based startup digital signage start-up Enplug has done a $2.5 million seed round from what looks to be a broad range of tech investors, the money intended to broaden the company’s footprint.
The funding, reports TechCrunch, comes from a number of investors, including Oaktree Capital Co-Founder Larry Keele, Juniper Networks Founding Member Rasoul Oskouy, Idealab Founder Bill Gross, Former AT&T President and CTO Hossein Eslambolchi, Interscope Executive Vice President David Cohen, Lightspeed Venture Partners Managing Director Justin Caldbeck, Atom Factory CEO Troy Carter, Activision Co-Founder Howard Marks, DominateFund, zPark Venture, and Amidi Group.
The two-year-old company has an interesting go to market approach that is built around social media content, and a set-up that gives small business operators the ability to opt in or out of advertising, which appears to be mostly in the form of sponsored posts. It’s a lot like the ad-based model for mobile apps, in that the apps tend to be free or cheaper if you will put up with advertising.
In this case, there’s no free, but you’ll pay less ($149/month) for an Enplug screen subscription in a venue that carries third-party posts. There’s an enterprise option where third-party sponsored content is just optional.
The programming model is built around aggregating and filtering social media interactions for businesses, based on user handles and hashtags. The playback engine works off panels that have (presumably) a browser.
Using the social media firehose is a dodgy proposition, but Enplug says it has profanity filtering algorithms that can sense naughty words and negative sentiment. Good, but I’d still be scared <profanity>less about people who’d make it their mission in the coffee shop to work around that with an an acronym or image. But Enplug also has a moderation app the shop owner can use to curate and approve what hits a screen.
The company says it has 350 screens up in 40 cities, but most of those cities would be like the City of Pasadena, and so on. It has a good footprint in Greater LA and, for now, a minimal presence in a handful of other major markets like Chicago.
An interesting take on this stuff. I like the presentation model and believe there can be a lot of value of getting social media into small business environments, if it is human-moderated. The challenge is that the small business owner has to commit to it and stick with it, and it probably best suits those SMB people who are already very active on things like Twitter.
I’m way less enthused about the ad model. The list of companies that have tried to make a go of Digital OOH networks with a service that’s paid for with advertising is long and mostly sad. Particularly when it’s a hyperlocal ad play.
I’m guessing the seed money came a little easier because there’s a subscription model and recurring revenue, and the company is not solely dependent on those elusive ad revenues.